Seek the Best in Your Spouse
Every marriage has its bumps, and they can pop up at any time. What's important is that you learn to navigate them smoothly—before they send your relationship into a ditch.
No matter how far along the marriage highway you've gone, there are some simple, fundamental rules of the road. Putting them into practice isn't always easy, but it's critical. If you do play by the rules, you'll make your marriage stronger, and the good stuff—fun, sex, trust, affection—will be better than ever.
1. Build up your love balance. Boredom, frustration and everyday irritations can douse the spark between you and your spouse—and more of the same certainly won't feed the flame. Making the good stuff your top priority will. Here's how to do it:
First, consider that it takes up to 20 positive statements to outweigh the harm done by one negative one—or by a steely squint or impatient "humph." So do more of the former, less of the latter. Compliment your wife on her new shoes, or your husband on his new blue shirt. Thank him for helping around the house. Dial her office for a quick "thinking of you" check-in (don't discuss household chores or bad report cards).
Be sure these compliments and thank-yous are heartfelt and specific: "I can always count on you to make sure my car is safe and ready to use." "This new tablecloth is nice—you're always thinking of ways to make our home pleasant." Make eye contact when you smile or deliver a compliment. Try a little joyful noise (a happy sigh, say) when giving a loving touch.
Once you take this approach, you'll realize that, in addition to knowing how to push Mr. or Mrs. Right's hot buttons, you know how to push his or her joy buttons too (and we don't just mean sex). After all, that's how this whole thing started. It won't be long before you appreciate that it's always the right time for small acts of love. Give him a "glad to see you" hug and kiss when you get home. Surprise her with coffee in bed on a rainy Sunday (then stay to talk). Revel in the best qualities; let faults slide. Flash your "I'm so happy we're here together" smile as you schlep the recycling bin to the curb. Resolve to enjoy a long kiss before you turn in each night. You do little things for your kids. Why not for your spouse?
2. Reach out. Human touch aids the release of feel-good endorphins, for giver and receiver. So link arms as you walk into the grocery store. Brush her cheek with your fingertips when you smooch good morning. Revive the ways you touched in the early days—a kiss on the back of the ear, a hand through her hair. Touch is a complex language. It pays to improve your vocabulary.
Adding more of this kind of touch will help you build a fortress of love. That's important, because a couple who form a tight unit can weather any storm (and are better able to stave off infidelity). How do you build this bond? First, support your soul mate. Take his or her side whenever possible if trouble arises in the "outside world." Keep your spouse's secrets to yourself, even when everyone at work spills theirs. Except in a true emergency, don't let anything interrupt "us" time. That's what voice mail and bedroom-door locks are for.